Yesterday my sister-in-law and I hopped a train into New York City. Like many suburbanites, we occasionally flock to the city for a mini-escape. We’d anticipated a crowded ride, with the sunny forecast and it being two weeks before Christmas. We didn’t expect so many our fellow passengers to be wearing Santa suits, however. That’s when my SantaCon education began.
SantaCon, for those of you who have been living under a rock like me, is a worldwide pub crawl that originated in San Francisco in 1994. Currently, this celebration takes place in 225 locations in thirty-two countries. This includes Key West, my Conch Republic friends, whose SantaCon is scheduled for December 17th. New York City happens to be home to the largest annual SantaCon gathering. That would explain why Times Square was filled with thousands of smiling red-suited partiers by late last night.
From what I learned through SantaCon.info and interviews with NYC attendees, this December event is non-denominational and focused on dressing up in holiday costumes while parading from one drinking establishment to the next. There’s charitable giving, too. A young woman mentioned having donated non-perishables at one of the bars. Another first-time SantaCon celebrant said the atmosphere was very similar to New York’s St. Patty’s Day parade, and that he’d had such a great time he had already made plans to attend next year with the same group of friends.
Participants generally wear Santa costumes, but we also spied elves and Mrs. Claus costumes. One man I encountered in Penn Station was quite creative, dressed as a present.
Tourists not participating in the event had differing opinions on New York City’s SantaCon. Some felt it didn’t seem to hurt anyone, while business owners and costume retailers stood to make a good profit.
On the other hand, some families with little children witnessed the random drunken Santa or Mrs. Claus whose behavior was naughty rather than nice, and wondered whether it was a wise choice to have these people parading through the streets to Times Square.
I’ll likely never participate in SantaCon, unless I happen to be in Key West during theirs, but my motto has always been: To each, his own. Enjoy the season!
How about you? What’s your opinion of SantaCon?